Before entering into the further details of this article let us first know that what Lokpal is in India! Over the period of time as the administrative processes as well as the administrative powers had been multiplying at different levels of the government, it had further led to the expansion of the bureaucracy and hence it had increased the powers in the hands of the civil servants and other officials at other levels. So in order to keep these powers under check as well as to curb all the other malpractices like harassment, corruption, maladministration which may actually arise by greater powers and by greater discretion; the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) of India recommended the formation of such an authority both at the central as well as at the state level for the redressal of the citizen’s grievances and these authorities were named as ‘Lokpal’ at the Centre and ‘Lokayukta’ at the state level. Both bodies had been formulated in order to deal with the complaints against ministers as well as the secretaries both at the center and the state level and also these bodies were kept out from the purview of the judiciary.
As per the last year’s notifications, Lokpal would extend it’s control over a wide range of public servants — from the Prime Minister, ministers, and MPs, to groups A, B, C, and D employees of the central government — various rules are in place. If a complaint is filed against the Prime Minister, the Act says, “Lokpal shall inquire or cause an inquiry to be conducted into any matter involved in, or arising from, or connected with, any allegation of corruption made in a complaint”. However, certain conditions will apply.
The Act does not allow a Lokpal inquiry if the allegation against the Prime Minister relates to international relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy and space. Also, complaints against the Prime Minister are not to be probed unless the full Lokpal bench considers the initiation of an inquiry and at least two-thirds of the members approve it. Such an inquiry against the Prime Minister (if conducted) is to be held in camera and if the Lokpal comes to the conclusion that the complaint deserves to be dismissed, the records of the inquiry are not to be published or made available to anyone.
The Lokpal may, after receiving a complaint against any public servant, order a preliminary inquiry (to be completed with in 90 days) or investigation by any agency. After receiving the report of the preliminary inquiry, the Lokpal may order an investigation by any agency or departmental proceedings or any other appropriate action against the concerned public servants by the competent authority, or it can order the closure of the proceedings
The Lokpal Rules had been notified almost a year after the country’s first Lokpal was appointed in 2019, it was brought in to being for inquiring into accusations as well as allegations of corruption against various public office bearers, now stated that in the case if the complaint is filed against a sitting or former Prime Minister, then on such a complaint a full bench will be taking the decisions, at the admission stage, whether that particular investigation should be initiated or not.
The rules further also stated that in case such a complaint is dismissed by the full bench at the admission stage, then the records of that particular investigation will not be published and will also not be made available for anyone.
But now as per the latest notification that was issued on March 2 by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions regarding the Lokpal (Complaint) Rules, 2020; stated that if a complaint is filed against the Prime Minister then it will be decided upon by the full bench of Lokpal which will be headed by the Chairperson of this authority, even at its admission stage, and here at least two-thirds of this bench must approve the inquiry, for carrying out further investigations.
“The complaint filed against any public servant will be referred to in clause (a) of sub-section (1) of section 14 of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013, shall be decided by the full bench referred to in sub-clause (ii) of clause (a) of sub-section (1) of section 14, in the first instance, at the admission stage,” section 7 of the rules state.
Section 14 (1) (ii) also states that further inquiry shall be “in camera proceeding” and, if Lokpal comes to the conclusion that the complaint deserves to be dismissed, “records of the inquiry shall not be published or made available to anyone”.
On any complaint which would be filed against a Union Minister or any other Member of Parliament, then for this matter rules stated that it shall be decided upon, at its admission stage, by the bench which would be consisting of not less than three members of the Lokpal.
On July 2, 2019, The Indian Express reported that the office of Lokpal is not yet fully functional because the anti-corruption ombudsman is still waiting for the Centre’s approval on notifying the “format” for receiving a complaint.
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According to the format that was notified, the Lokpal — Justice (retired) Pinaki Chandra Ghose — can send complaints to the Inquiry Wing of the Lokpal which may order a preliminary inquiry. And if there is a prima facie case, the Lokpal can refer the complaint for an investigation by a probe agency like the CBI.
As per the rules that were notified by the government, the Lokpal, after processing the complaint, has to “protect” the identity of the complaint till the very conclusion of the investigation, provided the complainant himself has revealed his identity to any authority while making the complaint to the Lokpal.
The rules also spell out the grounds on which the Lokpal can dispose a complaint — where the contents of the complaint are “illegible”, “vague or ambiguous”, “trivial or frivolous”; where the complaint does not contain allegation against a public servant; or where the cause of the complaint is pending before any other Court or Tribunal or Authority; and, the alleged offense in respect of which complaint is being made is within the period of seven years.
As per the rules maintained by the authority, if any complaint which is filed electronically, it shall be submitted within the time period of 15 days. The rules also bar any complaint filed against any public servant under various other legislations like the Army Act, Navy Act, Air Force Act or the Coast Guard Act. Also, even a non-citizen of India can also file a complaint — and for this purpose, only a copy of the passport will be accepted as proof of identity.